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How to set up a safe sleep environment for your baby


The way you set up your baby’s sleep space – whether that’s your bedroom or their nursery – can help your little one get a good night’s rest, sure. But it can also help keep them safe while they’re a-snoozing. OK then! 

A safe sleep environment can help reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and prevent other accidents from happening. In other words, it’s pretty damn important. But what makes a sleep environment safe? We know you’ve got a million things to think about already, mama. So – here’s a practical guide to how to set up a safe sleep environment for your baby.

The location

  • Have your baby sleep in the same room as you for at least the first six months of their life, and ideally for a year. This can help reduce the risk of SIDS by up to 50 per cent. After this point, you might move your baby into their nursery
  • Pop your babe to sleep in a crib, bassinet, or co-sleeper. Not on the couch, on soft pillows, in your bed, an armchair, their car seat, or pram – this can lead to suffocation. If your baby falls asleep in one of these ‘no-snooze’ locations, move them to their bed as soon as you can.  
  • You may choose to co-sleep because you prefer your babe close to you at night, or you find it more practical for overnight feeds. However, it’s important to be aware that co-sleeping has been associated with an increased risk of SIDS.

The bed

  • Make sure your baby’s bed meets safety standards. For a crib, for example, this means that its spindles are no wider than 2 3/8 inches apart (that’s about 6cms, y’all), and its sides don’t drop down. 
  • Ensure the mattress is firm and sits snugly in the bed and that the sheet is a tight fit. Loose bedding can be a suffocation risk. 
  • Keep the bed clear of toys, cot bumpers, blankets, and pillows. These can also be a suffocation hazard.
  • Always place your baby to sleep on their back, not on their tummy or side, to help decrease the risk of SIDS. If your baby shifts onto their side or stomach while they’re asleep, you don’t need to roll them; just ensure that the bed is clear of the suffocation hazards mentioned above.

The sleepwear

  • Ensure your baby’s sleepwear (e.g., pajamas/sleep sack) are appropriately sized. Too big, and it could cover your baby’s face (not ideal).
  • Make sure said sleepwear isn’t too warm for the room. Overheating is a contributing factor to SIDS.

     

The environment

Avoid overheating by keeping the room temperate – ideally 68°–72°F (or 20°–22.2°C). Use an air conditioner, a fan, or a space heater if you need it, and pick up a thermometer to track the temperature. If you’re comfortable in the space, your baby likely will be too. 

  • Keep the air conditioner, fan, or heater out of reach if possible. Ensure it doesn’t have any exposed blades that little fingers could get into and a cool-touch surface to avoid burns. 
  • Keep heaters away from curtains (no one wants a house fire) and away from your baby’s bed (remember what we said about overheating?). 
  • Keep nursery decor away from your baby’s bed and out of their reach. You don’t want that framed ‘Fish of the Caribbean’ poster falling into the crib or for them to become tangled in a garland of bunting. 
  • Fasten furniture to the walls to avoid it tipping over onto your little one. When babies learn to stand, they often pull themselves up on anything they can reach – including wobbly furniture. 
  • Keep furniture away from windows. Your baby might climb it, and if it’s next to a window, they might tumble out. You could double down by installing a window guard. 
  • Secure any blind cords to the wall or window frame. These can be a strangling risk.

The people

  • Make sure you and your partner are up to speed on safe sleep guidelines and what makes a safe sleeping environment. 
  • This also applies to anyone looking after your baby. Safe sleep guidelines have changed since the ’80s and ’90s when your mom was in charge.

A few last bits of advice:

  • If you’re not sure if something is safe, trust your gut! Google it, look it up, ask your doctor. Don’t just wing it.
  • Don’t trust product marketing. There are some products available, like wedges and baby positioners, that claim to prevent SIDS. However, these haven’t been tested for safety. There are also baby monitors that can track your baby’s breathing and heart rate. While they sound like a one-stop-SIDS-preventing-shop, none are actually approved to prevent SIDS, and research has found their measurements often aren’t accurate.

Now that you’re a certified safe sleep environment expert (well, sort of!), it’s time to either review your baby’s nursery or start thinking about how you’ll set your little one’s space up. Go, mama!

American Academy of Pediatrics, How to Keep Your Sleeping Baby Safe: AAP Policy Explained

Raisingchildren.net.au, Co-sleeping with your baby

Nationwide Children’s Hospital, Safe Sleep Practices for Babies

Raising Children Network, Safe sleeping: 11 tips

Nemour’s Children’s Health, Household Safety: Preventing Burns, Shocks, and Fires

Verywell Family, What Is the Ideal Room & Home Temperature for a Newborn?

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